Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Gareth Thomas MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 21 June which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 6 July. The Sub-Committee agreed to clear the document from scrutiny.

  We agree that the principles outlined in this Communication are essential for strengthening the EC contribution to overall support for security sector reform (SSR), and also agree with your statement that "the key challenge is to ensure that the Communication is translated into practice" (paragraph 12, EM).

  Whilst stressing the importance of a greater focus within the EU on SSR, your Explanatory Memorandum does not fully address some of the Commission's proposals which relate to defining "the Community's role in the wider framework of EU external action in the area of SSR." In particular we would like to receive your views on the following Commission proposals:

    —  the use of a coordinated planning approach across the three-pillar structure to ensure better coherence of all EU actions;

    —  the strengthening of coordination and complementarity between EU actions by the EC, the EU in the framework of CFSP/ESDP and Member State's bilateral programmes at headquarters and field level;

    —  the prioritisation of support for SSR under the new Financial Instruments; and

    —  the strengthening of cooperation with regional and multilateral organisations, including the UN, OECD, Council of Europe, OSCE and AU, and with civil society organisations and other NGO donors.

  We note that this Communication was published by the Commission on 24 May 2006 and considered by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 June. We therefore request a full explanation for the delay in sending the Explanatory Memorandum which we did not receive until 21 June, and ask for reassurance that further documents relating to both SSR and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) will be deposited in sufficient time for proper scrutiny to take place.

6 July 2006

Letter from Gareth Thomas MP to the Chairman

  Your Committee met on 6 July 2006 and discussed the Explanatory Memorandum on the European Community Concept for Security Sector Reform (SSR). The Committee cleared the document but asked for our views on a number of the specific proposals made by the Commission. I am pleased to set these out below and, as requested, explain why the document was not submitted within the appropriate timeframe.

  To begin with, we fully support the use of a coordinated planning approach across the three-pillar structure. This is consistent with the "whole of government" approach promoted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Good Practice Guide on SSR, in recognition of the need to draw on development, diplomatic and defence expertise and instruments in supporting SSR.

  In the UK, this is achieved through the joint DFID/FCO/MOD Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) SSR Strategy, and through country SSR programmes funded by the GCPP and the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool. In the EU, a coordinated approach will need to be based on an assessment of the comparative advantage of the respective pillars. Such an approach will help ensure a smooth transition in post-conflict environments when leadership on SSR moves from one pillar to another as the situation on the ground changes.

  Ensuring a coordinated approach across all EU action on SSR will also make easier the task of promoting greater complementarity between EU actions and Member State's bilateral programmes. A key focus of current international work on SSR is on bridging the gap between what is now a common conceptual understanding of SSR and actual practice on the ground. As was mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum, an "Implementation Framework for SSR" (IF) is being developed through the DAC. This is intended to be a guide for country governments and all their local and international partners to conducting SSR assessments and designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating SSR programmes. The IF should therefore be a key means of ensuring that international support to SSR is coherent and co-ordinated, but it will only achieve this if donors, including all pillars of the EU, use it. The Commission is a member of the team (led by the UK) which is taking forward work on the IF, and we will work hard to ensure that they commit to utilising it as they take forward work on SSR. There are already positive signs in this regard: we understand that the EC will use the draft IF to plan post-election support to SSR in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  Applying the framework in this way should also serve to strengthen EU co-operation on SSR with civil society, and with the regional and multilateral organisations highlighted in your letter. Within the UN in particular, there are a number of different institutions working on or with an interest in SSR. As we have done with the EU, the UK is currently supporting the development of a UN-wide SSR concept and adoption of the IF.

  Effective action on SSR clearly requires appropriate and timely financing. We support the proposal to ensure timely and appropriate support for SSR under the new Financial Instruments, in particular from the new Stability Instrument. As the Communication makes clear, this support should be driven by an effective assessment of needs and priorities in any particular country; and based on the vision of SSR set out by the Commission and the priorities of the partner government. SSR will not be a priority in every country.

  Separately, I am sorry you were not provided with sufficient time for scrutiny on this occasion. The delay in submitting the document was due to a combination of reasons which are set out in my letter of 12 July to Jimmy Hood, which is also copied to youc. I can confirm that we will continue to work hard to submit all documents for scrutiny within the appropriate time frame.

18 July 2006

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